Field and river

20th International Conference of Ethiopian Studies (ICES20)
Mekelle University, Ethiopia

"Regional and Global Ethiopia - Interconnections and Identities"
1-5 October, 2018

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Jonathan BAKER, Department of Global Development and Planning, Faculty of Social Sciences, University of Agder, Norway.
GOITOM Abera, Assistant Professor, College of Business & Economics, Mekelle University, Ethiopia

Over the past few decades there has been an ongoing conceptual and theoretical discourse as to whether small towns can act as catalysts for rural change and how the expansion of drug cultivation such as khat (Catha edulis) can be situated within a development debate. The presentation will attempt to highlight some elements of this interplay with particular emphasis on khat and development in north-eastern Ethiopia. In 2003 fieldwork was conducted in Kemise, the capital town of the Dewa Chefa woreda in the Oromiya Zone of north-eastern Ethiopia in the Amhara Region. In addition, four rural kebele within the woreda were investigated to assess the kinds of links they had with Kemise. The most isolated and marginalised kebele was Ourene Selama which was also the location of a small urban kebele, Bora. In 2003, Bora was a small isolated and non-dynamic place (with a population of less than 1000), a police station, a small weekly market, and a health centre. The town lacked electricity. However, in 2013, Bora had changed quite significantly as a consequence of administrative upgrading to a woreda town, greater improved connectivity (road improvements, particularly to Kemise) a link to the electricity grid and the erection of a mobile phone mast, among other improvements. In 2013, surveys were conducted using a mixed-methods approach of rural and urban households. The results from 24-farm households drawn from two rural kebele within the woreda producing khat were surprising. Most farmers stated that the adoption of khat had greatly increased their incomes and quality of life. The main drivers of this buoyant rural and urban economy appear to the role of the state in the creation of the new woreda, greatly improved connectivity in road communications (essential in transporting khat very rapidly to market because of its perishability), the link to the electricity grid and the erection of the mobile phone mast.